PHILADELPHIA – Repeat after me:
The Heat trail this series 0-1.
It may seem like more, especially after Miami’s meltdown the final 24 minutes, turning this into a 130-103 beatdown. felt even worse when the buzzer sounded. But the Heat will enter Monday’s Game 2 (8 p.m.) against the surging Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center with its realistic goal intact.
“We’re not happy about the game, nor should we be, none of us players or staff,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But that’s one loss. We crawl out of this with a one-point win (Monday) and it’s all the same.”
The Heat watched two teams on film Sunday before practicing at Temple University. The first was the one that matched the Sixers, and then some, leading by seven one minute into the third quarter.
Then there was the team that was outscored by 34 points the final 23 minutes. The one that surrendered the most points and 3-pointers (18) of any Heat team in the postseason. The one that allowed the Sixers, who have won 17 straight games, to dictate the pace and shake free for 46 open shots.
“You do have to credit them for the force that they played with,” Spoelstra said. “Their shooters won those battles. The line of scrimmage they were winning a lot of those and they created some separation and then they started to make some really tough shots down the stretch. They won the rebounding battle, they won the turnover battle and sometimes it can be as simple as those things.”
Said Josh Richardson: “We have to get into that dogfight a little bit more but we still have to use our brains better.”
The Heat expect the Sixers to keep their foot on the gas, or as Spoelstra said “put this into hyper-drive even more” for Game 2. In fact, the Heat expect Sixers coach Brett Brown to make an adjustment to start the game.
Sixers center Joel Embiid has been ruled out and will miss his 10th consecutive game since suffering a fractured orbital bone and concussion late in the season. But instead of starting Amir Johnson, Spoelstra believes Brown will roll out Ersan Ilyasova, a move he made at the start of the second half in Game 1 and watched his team turn a four-point halftime deficit into a blowout win.
The 6-foot-10 Ilyasova is a bad matchup for Miami’s 7-foot center Hassan Whiteside. It has more to do with Ilyasova’s perimeter game than his size. Ilyasova finished with 17 points in Game 1 and made 3-of-4 threes.
Whiteside, who played just 12 minutes and scored two points in Game 1, is not concerned about the matchup. Neither is Spoelstra.
“That’s not the first time that we’ve gone through this,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the way the league is headed and that’s what he’s been working on all season is to play shooting greats and still find ways to impact our team positively at the rim.”
Whiteside, who hid his frustration well after his shortest outing of the season by nearly five minutes, insists he’s up for the challenge.
“It’s not tough for me to guard,” he said. “I just think it’s more so they want me away from the basket so I can’t block shots and get rebounds. But it’s not tough for me at all.
“If they go small with shooters, that guy has to guard you.”
That’s the issue, can the Heat make the Sixers adjust and take advantage of Whiteside’s size against a player who is not used to trying to banging with bigger bodies. At 265, Whiteside is 30 pounds heavier than Ilyasova.
“We didn’t take advantage of that,” said Josh Richardson, who had one of his worst games of the season, shooting 1 of 7. “I’ll take part of that, that’s on us. We can’t allow them to put guys like (Dario) Saric or Ilyasova on H because he’s bigger than them. We just have to make it happen.”
Dwyane Wade has been on four teams in Miami that lost the first game of a series and rebounded to win the next four. Last season he was on a Bulls team that won the first two games against the Celtics and then lost four straight after Rajon Rondo was hurt.
So, Wade knows this series is far from over, despite with The Process says.
“Game 1 of the playoffs on the road against a team playing well in a hostile environment, we played very well in one half, the second half they played a lot better,” Wade said. “You try to learn from it.
“But you understand this is a seven-game series, each game in the playoffs is its own game. You can’t take it into another game, good or bad. If you win or you lose. That’s something that these guys have to learn and something we’re trying to teach.”